DAVOS, Switzerland—Two years ago President Donald Trump flew here and took the gathering of elites at the World Economic Forum by storm. Every conversation seemed to revolve around the American leader and his signature brand of political disruption.
Trump came back this year, and was greeted with a shrug.
Make no mistake, all the standard elements of the Trump tornado were on display. There was his keynote address boasting about how well the U.S. economy is doing on his watch. There was a blizzard of meetings with foreign leaders and U.S. finance and tech CEOs, at which he reportedly said he wished he owned stock in their firms because of how much money he had made them. There was the honking news conference with its usual lamentations about impeachment and the “major sleaze bags” trying to drive him from office.
The big difference was the way most people at Davos, including Americans but especially the non-Americans, were responding to this flamboyant but familiar show. The consensus reaction: Whatever.
This year’s Davos gathering featured several preoccupations—subjects that seem to come up at every panel, in every sidewalk encounter—and it is striking that Trump is a marginal figure in all of them.“Some of the American delegates behave as if the world is America,” with its 24-hour, 7X-weekly Trump obsession, while much of the rest of the world has simply moved beyond the Trump drama, David Miliband, a former British foreign minister who now heads the International Rescue Committee, said in an interview.
Christian Rhally, an executive at LinkedIn who emphasized he was speaking in a personal capacity, said Trump lacks “the aura or the respect” that a president might ordinarily command at Davos. Echoing a common refrain, he said Trump’s Tuesday address sounded more like a “campaign speech,” raising the question of whether he was even trying to engage with the global audience. “You can’t ignore him but it’s nothing people really talk about.”